The Angel's Game

( 271 )

Overview

From the author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes a riveting new masterpiece about love, literature, and betrayal.
 
In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. Thus, when he is approached by a ...
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Overview

From the author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes a riveting new masterpiece about love, literature, and betrayal.
 
In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. Thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy
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  • The Angel's Game
    The Angel's Game  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 
 
 “[Zafón's] visionary storytelling prowess is a genre unto itself."--USA Today

"[A] rip-roaring Gothic mystery. . . .  Will keep you glued to your deck chair."--Seattle Times

"A wickedly clever tale."--Miami Herald
 
“Ruiz Zafón’s narrative twists and soars, part dream and part slippery reality brought to live in vivid detail…. A book for story lovers: expansive, rich and slow to digest.”—Denver Post
 
"Zafón can write up a storm. . . . A dream from which it would be imprudent to awake."--The Washington Post
 
“Absorbing.... Offers not only plenty of plot intricacies and mystery but also a lyrical style of writing.... A literary centaur in which a meditation on the craft of writing is combined with a thriller.” —Los Angeles Times
 
"A love letter to all things literary, and a paean to the power of the written word. . . . Zafón is a storyteller with vast gifts."--The Onion
 
“A thriller laden with Gothic elements. . . . A pleasure to read.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Zafón, a master of mood and emotional manipulation, guides us through Barcelona's backstreets. . . . Readers who enjoy losing themselves completely in a grand scary story that is at once epic and intimate will find themselves spellbound.”—San Antonio Express-News 

 "Zafon keeps the twists coming, right down to the last page."--The Oregonian
 
"As in The Shadow of the Wind, [Zafón] spins a fantastically elaborate plot."--New York Times

“Zafon is a superb and often witty weaver of suspense.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
"A love letter to all things literary, and a paean to the power of the written word. . . . Zafón is a storyteller with vast gifts."--The Onion
 
"Zafon takes us into sinful corners, indulging fantasies that are erotic, magical or violent. In the end Zafón is the tempter. Many will fall for his vigorous and exhaustingly relentless story-telling."--The Guardian
 
“Gothic, fantastical and lushly atmospheric.”—Wall Street Journal
 
“Irresistible. . . . Writhes and twists. . . .  We can compare Zafon to Dickens or Poe, but his brilliant writing puts him in a league of his own. . . . Exquisite.”—Bookreporter
 
“Endearing and addictive.”—Financial Times

Louis Bayard
It's safe to say The Angel's Game won't be forgotten anytime soon, if only because it offers such a glut of reading pleasure.
—The Washington Post
Terrence Rafferty
In The Angel’s Game, as in his previous novel, The Shadow of the Wind, he spins a fantastically elaborate plot from a slender, whimsical idea. Here it’s the notion that a writer might, on a bad day, succumb to a sense of futility about the value of his calling, might begin to believe that the act of telling a story isn’t just vain, but positively diabolical. Faust this isn’t. Ruiz Zafón’s flamboyant pulp epic is something altogether sillier, a pact-with-the-devil tale whose only purpose is to give its readers some small intimation of the darker pleasures of the literary arts, the weird thrill of storytelling without conscience.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Fans of Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind and new readers alike will be delighted with this gothic semiprequel. In 1920s Barcelona, David Martin is born into poverty, but, aided by patron and friend Pedro Vidal, he rises to become a crime reporter and then a beloved pulp novelist. David's creative pace is frenetic; holed up in his dream house-a decrepit mansion with a sinister history-he produces two great novels, one for Vidal to claim as his own, and one for himself. But Vidal's book is celebrated while David's is buried, and when Vidal marries David's great love, David accepts a commission to write a story that leads him into danger. As he explores the past and his mysterious publisher, David becomes a suspect in a string of murders, and his race to uncover the truth is a delicious puzzle: is he beset by demons or a demon himself? Zafón's novel is detailed and vivid, and David's narration is charming and funny, but suspect. Villain or victim, he is the hero of and the guide to this dark labyrinth that, by masterful design, remains thrilling and bewildering. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Another delicious supernatural mystery from bestselling Catalan author Zaf-n (The Shadow of the Wind, 2005). Mix Edgar Allan Poe with Jorge Luis Borges, intellectual mysterian Arturo Perez-Reverte, and maybe add a dash of Stephen King, and you have some of the makings of Zaf-n's sensibility. Fans of his earlier book will be pleased to find themselves on patches of familiar ground, including a revisit to that wonderful conceit, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Indeed, this is a prequel-but only of a kind: Familiar figures turn up at points, only to seem less than familiar as the narrative twists and turns. The none-too-heroic hero, David Mart'n, is an aspiring journalist who bucks hackwork to turn in a crowd-pleasing series for a tough boss. This leads him into an onerous contract with the usual crooked publishers and, indirectly, into a rivalry with his former mentor-all of which, naturally, entails love triangles and smoldering egos. The picture is complicated by the arrival of another curious publisher, Andreas Corelli, who offers David piles of pesetas to write, well, a book of a different sort, involving research that yields piles of corpses and occasions ample cliffhangers. Zaf-n has a fine talent for inserting unexpected hitches into a story line already resistant to graphing, whose outcome is definitely not seen from afar. The plot resolves in a rush, for the author finds himself with many a loose end to tie up, but once it sinks in, the result is more than satisfying. Zaf-n delivers a warning about the dangers of obsession, mixed with an obvious passion for literature and the printed word; his book is also a song of love for Barcelona with all its creaking floorboards and hiddensubbasements. A nice fit with the current craze for learned mysteries and for spooks of both the spying and the spectral kind.
The Barnes & Noble Review
In Carlos Ruiz Zafón's breathtaking novel The Angel's Game, the author demonstrates a much wider range and self-assurance than in his international bestseller The Shadow of the Wind. When struggling writer David Martin visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a magical place first introduced to readers in Zafón's earlier novel, he leaves a book he wishes to save and chooses a book he promises to protect. After he loses the love of his life to another man, a despondent Martin accepts an offer from an unusual publisher to write a book that he promises will make Martin immortal. The task thrusts him into a strange web of long-buried secrets, double-crosses, and madness. Zafón's use of language is often playful in a Borgesian way: "[The book cemetery] is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens." Much of the novel's energy also derives from Martin's sarcastic sense of humor, especially in conversations with a young assistant. Ultimately, though, the appeal of The Angel's Game lies in its careful portrait of Martin and its exploration of what it really means to love someone. Readers who appreciate books, romance, and intrigue will find this novel a subtle, unforgettable, and satisfying page-turner. --Jeff Vandermeer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767931113
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/18/2010
  • Series: Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series , #2
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 87,339
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN, author of The Shadow of the Wind and other novels, is one of the world’s most read and best-loved writers. His work has been translated into more than forty languages and published around the world, garnering numerous international prizes and reaching millions of readers. He divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles.
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Read an Excerpt

A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting any­one discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that mo­ment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.

My first time came one faraway day in December 1917. I was seventeen and worked at The Voice of Industry, a newspaper that had seen bet­ter days and now languished in a barn of a building that had once housed a sulfuric acid factory. The walls still oozed the corrosive vapor that ate away at furniture and clothes, sapping the spirits, consuming even the soles of shoes. The newspaper’s headquarters rose behind the forest of an­gels and crosses of the Pueblo Nuevo cemetery; from afar, its outline merged with the mausoleums silhouetted against the horizon–a skyline stabbed by hundreds of chimneys and factories that wove a perpetual twilight of scarlet and black above Barcelona.

On the night that was about to change the course of my life, the newspaper’s deputy editor, Don Basilio Moragas, saw fit to summon me, just before closing time, to the dark cubicle at the far end of the editorial staff room that doubled as his office and cigar den. Don Basilio was a forbidding- looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency. Any journalist prone to florid prose would be sent off to write fu­neral notices for three weeks. If, after this penance, the culprit relapsed, Don Basilio would ship him off permanently to the "House and Home" pages. We were all terrified of him, and he knew it.

"Did you call me, Don Basilio?" I ventured timidly.

The deputy editor looked at me askance. I entered the office, which smelled of sweat and tobacco in that order. Ignoring my presence, Don Basilio continued to read through one of the articles lying on his table, a red pencil in hand. For a couple of minutes, he machine- gunned the text with corrections and amputations, muttering sharp comments as if I weren’t there. Not knowing what to do, and noticing a chair placed against the wall, I slid toward it.

"Who said you could sit down?" muttered Don Basilio without raising his eyes from the text.
I quickly stood up and held my breath. The deputy editor sighed, let his red pencil fall, and leaned back in his armchair, eyeing me as if I were some useless piece of junk.

"I’ve been told that you write, Martin."

I gulped. When I opened my mouth only a ridiculous, reedy voice emerged.

"A little, well, I don’t know, I mean, yes, I do write..."

"I hope you write better than you speak. And what do you write– if that’s not too much to ask?"

"Crime stories. I mean..."

"I get the idea."

The look Don Basilio gave me was priceless. If I’d said I devoted my time to sculpting figures for Nativity scenes out of fresh dung I would have drawn three times as much enthusiasm from him. He sighed again and shrugged his shoulders.

"Vidal says you’re not altogether bad. He says you stand out."

"Of course, with the sort of competition in this neck of the woods, one doesn’t have to run very fast. Still, if Vidal says so."

Pedro Vidal was the star writer at The Voice of Industry. He penned a weekly column on crime and lurid events–the only thing worth read­ing in the whole paper. He was also the author of a dozen modestly successful thrillers about gangsters in the Raval quarter carrying out bedroom intrigues with ladies of high society. Invariably dressed in im­peccable silk suits and shiny Italian moccasins, Vidal had the looks and the manner of a matinee idol: fair hair always well combed, a pencil moustache, and the easy, generous smile of someone who feels comfortable in his own skin and at ease with the world. He belonged to a family whose forebears had made their pile in the Americas in the sugar business and, on their return to Barcelona, had bitten off a large chunk of the city’s electricity grid. His father, the patriarch of the clan, was one of the newspaper’s main shareholders, and Don Pedro used its offices as a playground to kill the tedium of never having worked out of necessity a single day in his life. It mattered little to him that the newspaper was losing money as quickly as the new automobiles that were beginning to circulate around Barcelona leaked oil: with its abundance of nobility, the Vidal dynasty was now busy collecting banks and plots of land the size of small principalities in the new part of town known as the Ensanche.

Pedro Vidal was the first person to whom I had dared show rough drafts of my writing when, barely a child, I carried coffee and cigarettes round the staff room. He always had time for me: he read what I had written and gave me good advice. Eventually, he made me his assistant and would allow me to type out his drafts. It was he who told me that if I wanted to bet on the Russian roulette of literature, he was willing to help me and set me on the right path. True to his word, he had now thrown me into the clutches of Don Basilio, the newspaper’s Cerberus.

"Vidal is a sentimentalist who still believes in those profoundly un-Spanish myths such as meritocracy or giving opportunities to those who deserve them rather than to the current favorite. Loaded as he is, he can allow himself to go around being a free spirit. If I had one hundredth of the cash he doesn’t even need I would have devoted my life to honing sonnets and little twittering nightingales would come to eat from my hand, captivated by my kindness and charm."

"Senor Vidal is a great man!"I protested.

"He’s more than that. He’s a saint, because although you may look scruffy he’s been banging on at me for weeks about how talented and hardworking the office boy is. He knows that deep down I’m a softy and, besides, he’s assured me that if I give you this break he’ll present me with a box of Cuban cigars. And if Vidal says so, it’s as good as Moses coming down from the mountain with the lump of stone in his hand and the revealed truth shining from his forehead. So, to get to the point, because it’s Christmas and because I want your friend to shut up once and for all, I’m offering you a head start, against wind and tide."

"Thank you so much, Don Basilio. I promise you won’t regret it."

"Don’t get too carried away, boy. Let’s see, what do you think of the indiscriminate use of adjectives and adverbs?"

"I think it’s a disgrace and should be set down in the penal code,"I replied with the conviction of a zealot.
Don Basilio nodded in approval.

"You’re on the right track, Martin. Your priorities are clear. Those who make it in this business have priorities, not principles. This is the plan. Sit down and concentrate, because I’m not going to tell you twice."

The plan was as follows. For reasons that Don Basilio thought best not to set out in detail, the back page of the Sunday edition, which was traditionally reserved for a short story or a travel feature, had fallen through at the last minute. The content was to have been a fiery narrative in a patriotic vein about the exploits of Catalan medieval knights who saved Christianity and all that was decent under the sun, starting with the Holy Land and ending with the banks of our Llobregat delta. Unfortunately, the text had not arrived in time or, I suspected, Don Basilio simply didn’t want to publish it. This left us, only six hours be­fore deadline, with no other substitute for the story than a full- page ad­vertisement for whalebone corsets that guaranteed perfect hips and full immunity from the effects of buttery by-products. The editorial board had opted to take the bull by the horns and make the most of the liter­ary excellence that permeated every corner of the newspaper. The problem would be overcome by publishing a four- column human interest piece for the entertainment and edification of our loyal family-oriented readership. The list of proven talent included ten names, none of which, needless to say, was mine.

"Martin, my friend, circumstances have conspired so that not one of the champions on our payroll is on the premises or can be contacted in time. With disaster imminent, I have decided to give you your first crack at glory."

"You can count on me."

"I’m counting on five double-spaced pages in six hours, Don Edgar Allan Poe. Bring me a story, not a speech. If I want a sermon, I’ll go to Midnight Mass. Bring me a story I have not read before and, if I have read it, bring it to me so well written and narrated that I won’t even notice."

I was about to leave the room when Don Basilio got up, walked round his desk, and rested a hand, heavy and large as an anvil, on my shoulder. Only then, when I saw him close up, did I notice a twinkle in his eyes.

"If the story is decent I’ll pay you ten pesetas. And if it’s better than decent and our readers like it, I’ll publish more."

"Any specific instructions, Don Basilio?"I asked.

"Yes. Don’t let me down."
. . .
I spent the next six hours in a trance. I installed myself at a table that stood in the middle of the editorial room and was reserved for Vidal, on the days when he felt like dropping by. The room was deserted, sub­merged in a gloom thick with the smoke of a thousand cigarettes. Closing my eyes for a moment, I conjured up an image, a cloak of dark clouds spilling down over the city in the rain, a man walking under cover of shadows with blood on his hands and a secret in his eyes. I didn’t know who he was or what he was fleeing from, but during the next six hours he was going to become my best friend. I slid a page into the typewriter and without pausing, I proceeded to squeeze out everything I had inside me. I quarreled with every word, every phrase and expression, every image and letter as if they were the last I was ever going to write. I wrote and rewrote every line as if my life depended on it, and then rewrote it again. My only company was the incessant clacking of the typewriter echoing in the darkened hall and the large clock on the wall exhausting the minutes left until dawn.
. . .
Shortly before six o’clock in the morning I pulled the last sheet out of the typewriter and sighed, utterly drained. My brain felt like a wasp’s nest. I heard the heavy footsteps of Don Basilio, who had emerged from one of his brief naps and was approaching unhurriedly. I gathered up the pages and handed them to him, not daring to meet his gaze. Don Basilio sat down at the next table and turned on the lamp. His eyes skimmed the text, betraying no emotion. Then he rested his cigar on the end of the table for a moment, glared at me, and read out the first line:

Night falls on the city and the streets carry the scent of gunpowder like the breath of a curse.

Don Basilio looked at me out of the corner of his eye and I hid be­hind a smile that didn’t leave a single tooth uncovered. Without saying another word, he got up and left with my story in his hands. I saw him walking toward his office and closing the door behind him. I stood there, petrified, not knowing whether to run away or await the death sentence. Ten minutes later–it felt more like ten years to me–the door of the deputy editor’s office opened and the voice of Don Basilio thundered right across the department.

"Martin. In here. Now."

I dragged myself along as slowly as I could, shrinking a centimeter or two with every step, until I had no alternative but to show my face and look up. Don Basilio, the fearful red pencil in hand, was staring at me icily. I tried to swallow, but my mouth was dry. He picked up the pages and gave them back to me. I took them and turned to go as quickly as I could, telling myself that there would always be room for another shoeshine boy in the lobby of Hotel Coln.

"Take this down to the composing room and have them set it,"said the voice behind me.

I turned round, thinking I was the object of some cruel joke. Don Basilio pulled open the drawer of his desk, counted out ten pesetas, and put them on the table.

"This belongs to you. I suggest you buy yourself a better suit with it–I’ve seen you wearing the same one for four years and it’s still about six sizes too big. Why don’t you pay a visit to Senor Pantaleoni at his shop in Calle Escudellers? Tell him I sent you. He’ll look after you."

"Thank you so much, Don Basilio. That’s what I’ll do."

"And start thinking about another of these stories for me. I’ll give you a week for the next one. But don’t fall asleep. And let’s see if we can have a lower body count this time–today’s readers like a slushy ending in which the greatness of the human spirit triumphs over adversity, that sort of rubbish."

"Yes, Don Basilio."

The deputy editor nodded and held out his hand to me. I shook it.

"Good work, Martin. On Monday I want to see you at the desk that belonged to Junceda. It’s yours now. I’m putting put you on the crime beat."

"I won’t fail you, Don Basilio."

"No, you won’t fail me. You’ll just cast me aside sooner or later. And you’ll be right to do so, because you’re not a journalist and you never will be. But you’re not a crime novelist yet, even if you think you are. Stick around for a while and we’ll teach you a thing or two that will always come in handy."

At that moment, my guard down, I was so overwhelmed by gratitude that I wanted to hug that great bulk of a man. Don Basilio, his fierce mask back in place, gave me a steely look and pointed toward the door.

"No scenes, please. Close the door. And happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas."
. . .
The following Monday, when I arrived at the editorial room ready to sit at my own desk for the very Þrst time, I found a coarse gray enve­lope with a ribbon and my name on it in the same recognizable type that I had been typing out for years. I opened it. Inside was a framed copy of my story from the back page of the Sunday edition, with a note saying:

"This is just the beginning. In ten years I’ll be the apprentice and you’ll be the teacher. Your friend and colleague, Pedro Vidal."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Interviews & Essays

Original Essay for The Angel's Game
by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Years ago, when I began working on my fifth novel, The Shadow of the Wind, I started toying around with the idea of creating a fictional universe that would be articulated through four interconnected stories in which we would meet some of the same characters at different times in their lives, and see them from different perspectives where many plots and subplots would tie around in knots for the reader to untie. It sounds somewhat pretentious, but my idea was to add a twist to the story and provide the reader with what I hoped would be a stimulating and playful reading experience. Since these books were, in part, about the world of literature, books, reading and language, I thought it would be interesting to use the different novels to explore those themes through different angles and to add new layers to the meaning of the stories.

At first I thought this could be done in one book, but soon I realized it would make Shadow of the Wind a monster novel, and in many ways, destroy the structure I was trying to design for it. I realized I would have to write four different novels. They would be stand-alone stories that could be read in any order. I saw them as a Chinese box of stories with four doors of entry, a labyrinth of fictions that could be explored in many directions, entirely or in parts, and that could provide the reader with an additional layer of enjoyment and play. These novels would have a central axis, the idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, set against the backdrop of a highly stylized, gothic and mysterious Barcelona. Since each novel was going to be complex and difficult to write, I decided to take one at a time and see how the experiment evolved on its own in an organic way.

It all sounds very complicated, but it is not. At the end of the day, these are just stories that share a universe, a tone and some central themes and characters. You don't need to care or know about any of this stuff to enjoy them. One of the fun things about this process was it allowed me to give each book a different personality. Thus, if Shadow of the Wind is the nice, good girl in the family, The Angel's Game would be the wicked gothic stepsister. Some readers often ask me if The Angel's Game is a prequel or a sequel. The answer is: none of these things, and all of the above. Essentially The Angel's Game is a new book, a stand-alone story that you can fully enjoy and understand on its own. But if you have already read The Shadow of the Wind, or you decide to read it afterwards, you'll find new meanings and connections that I hope will enhance your experience with these characters and their adventures.

The Angel's Game has many games inside, one of them with the reader. It is a book designed to make you step into the storytelling process and become a part of it. In other words, the wicked, gothic chick wants your blood. Beware. Maybe, without realizing, I ended up writing a monster book after all… Don't say I didn't warn you, courageous reader. I'll see you on the other side.

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Reading Group Guide

1. The novel begins with David’s recollection of the first time he tasted “the sweet poison of vanity” by writing for a living. How much of his career is fueled by vanity versus poverty? Why was it so difficult for him to heed Cristina’s warnings about selling out to greedy publishers?

2. Like Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s previous novel, The Angel’s Game is written in the first person. What does David reveal about his view of the world as he tells us his story? How might the novel have unfolded if it had been told from Andreas Corelli’s point of view?

3. Sempere influenced David’s life by giving him a copy of Great Expectations. Later returned to him by Corelli, the book still bore the bloody fingerprints of David’s father. How did David’s childhood resemble a Dickens novel? How was he affected by his parents’ history? How did books and booksellers save him? What is the most memorable book you received as a child?

4. Discuss the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, described especially vividly in chapter 20 (act one). What do the contents of the cemetery say about which books have long lives, and which ones are overlooked? What is required to honor the soul of a book, applying Sempere’s belief that a book absorbs the soul of its author and its readers?

5. What is the common thread in each of Corelli’s tactics for luring David? How did you interpret his “dream” of Chloé? What made David a vulnerable target?

6. What aspects of his identity does David have to leave behind when he becomes Ignatius B. Samson, author of City of the Damned (chapter 7, act one)? What does The Steps of Heaven say about who he wants to be and who Irene Sabino became?

7. How does Pedro Vidal justify his exploitation of David, stealing the woman he loves and capitalizing on David’s prowess as a writer? How did your opinion of Vidal shift throughout the novel? Does he redeem himself in chapter 22 (act three)? Describe someone whom you idolized early in your career who later proved to be untrustworthy.

8. In chapter 24 (act one), Corelli reveals his plan to David, describing religion as “a moral code that is expressed through legends, myths or any type of literary device.” Does this definition match your experience with religion? What do Lux Aeterna and Corelli’s project indicate about faith and the written word?

9. How did you react to the revelations about Ricardo Salvador at the end of chapter 14 (act three)? What had your theories been about Corelli’s network?

10. Explore the novel’s title. Ultimately, who are the angels in David’s world? What are the rules of Corelli’s game? Who are its winners?

11. Discuss Barcelona, especially the traces of renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, as if the city were a character in the novel. How do the tower house in Calle Flassaders (first described in chapter 8, act one) and Vidal’s Villa Helius, along with the cathedrals, cemeteries, the Ramblas, and other locales, set the tone for The Angel’s Game?

12. What is the effect of reading a novel about a novelist? What truths about the intersection of art and commerce are reflected in the story of Barrido & Escobillas and in their subsequent demise at the hands of an even more controlling publisher?

13. If you had been Inspector Víctor Grandes, would you have believed David’s story in chapters 18 and 19 (act three)?

14. How did you interpret the novel’s closing scene, particularly the presence of Cristina? Throughout the novel, how did David reconcile the ideal of Cristina with the realities of circumstance?

15. What is special about the bond between David and Isabella? What do they teach each other about love? If you have read The Shadow of the Wind, discuss your reactions to Daniel’s heritage, revealed in the epilogue.

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 272 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Zafon's newest is FAR different but an excellent read!

    The length of this volume could have been drastically reduced by better editing in the first act, entitled "City of the Damned." This section strives to become the foundation for the remaining two "acts" and does so overly well. The hero, David Martin, is a writer, the son of a mother who abandoned him and his father shortly after his father returned from the Spanish "War in the Phillippines" a broken and haunted man. When David was in his early teens, his father was murdered in front of him. Fortunately, he was employed as a writer at a rather "raggy" daily newspaper and his writing caught the eye of a wealthy benefactor who made it possible for him to become a featured writer. As expected, the other journalists grew jealous and he was sacked after a year. He becomes a highly read author, who is contractually required to use an alias, nearly losing everything else in the process and that is where the story becomes intriguing. It is also the end of "act one."
    The following two "acts" detail the relationship David develops with "the boss," Andreas Corelli, a mysterious publisher who commissions him to write a book that "will capture the world." The path this writing leads our hero, the people he meets and the problems he encounters in the year following his meeting Mr. Corelli, makes the last 261 page a much quicker read than the first 139.
    This is a much darker novel than was The Shadow of the Wind. The Sempere & Sons' book shop and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books are welcomed old friends returning from that novel, however, Mr. Zafon takes the reader into an entirely different aisle in the world of literature with the writing of this work than was his leading in the previous novel. This is as a bloody a tale as is it dark. By the end of the book, I was weary of the body count and discouraged by the "cheap" manner in which Mr. Zafon was dealing with the conclusion of his tale. I was discouraged, that is, until the epilogue, when the picture was complete and the story was shown to have no wasted bloodshed. Each action was as necessary, and usually painful, for David as it was for the reader. There are no nightmares to be found in this book, only the sorrow experienced by those who feel compelled to write then share that part of their soul with the world.
    There is a decided Spiritual dimension to this parable. David wrestles with an evil who befriends him, yet the price for that friendship far exceeds the benefits given. He is confronted with the miracle of life, magic, love, and mystery all by his skill as a writer, yet he refuses to glimpse beyond the material to see the Real. Mr. Zafon is either a lapsed Catholic or a very radical practicing one, as his understanding of religion is seeped in ritual and he presents faith as something that is deeply personal but just as deeply powerful. Even the title of the book is a hint of the Spiritual nature of the story, as he understands the Biblical idea of "Angel" as a messenger and who is not always a welcomed guest.The love Mr. Zafon has for literature is evident in this, and in his previous, novel. There are references to Dickens' Great Expectations, homage to Goethe's Faust, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and a host of other great novelist's works are evident in this tale. Mr. Zafon does not plagiarize the other works, he only honors them with incorporating their "flavor"

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very, very good.

    This has to be one of the most frustrating books that I have ever read. The first 100 pages made me want to pull out all my hair because though interesting in general, it was long winded and could have been 50 pages shorter.

    In 1920s Barcelona, David Martin is a young man who has been orphaned at a very young age. But he is lucky in his patronage as his mentor is Pedro Vidal, one of the richest men in town. Through Vidal, he gets a job at the local paper where he soon excels writing a pulp fiction serial. His stories are an instant hit and widely embraced by the populace. Unfortunately, his success turns friends at the paper into foes and he is eventually forced to leave. He finds another job and is contracted to a long term deal with two unscrupulous publishers, writing under a pseudonym. One constant through this period is the presence of a mysterious man, Andreas Corelli, who wants David to come work for him. Through a confluence of different events that break David's heart and spirit, David would eventually agree to a contract with Mr. Corelli. Shortly after he makes this agreement, his former publishers suffer brutal and mysterious deaths. David has nagging doubts about Corelli but the money that he is offered and the freedom that comes along with it prove to be temptations that cannot be passed up.

    But as David writes this book, his doubts continue to grow. Who exactly is Andreas Corelli?What kind of publisher pays an exorbitant amount of money for a book that he never intends to publish? Also what is the relationship between Corelli and the former occupant of David's house?

    This book is beautifully written and melds elements of mysticism, the supernatural and features very intelligent debates/discussions of the nature of religious belief, faith and the human search for meaning. The author is obviously a very talented writer whose love for the written word is apparent. In his writing he pays tribute to the masters like Dickens, Bronte, Wilde, etc. His writing is lyrical, magical and in his hands, Barcelona becomes a dreamlike locale that I am now dying to visit. But before I could get to the place where I could say all this about the book, I had to survive the first section of it which just seemed to go on and on and on. Honestly, I believe that many people will get so frustrated with this first section that they may give up and therefore miss out on a truly great book. I wish that this portion of the book was trimmed down because it detracts from the overall work. Another problem with the book was that I felt that too many characters were introduced that sometimes I lost count of who each person was. This could have easily been a 5 star book but these two factors made me rate it lower.

    But all in all, it is a very well written book that does not leave you with easy answers. By the end of the book you are unsure of who is victim or villain. You do not walk away with a clear sense of who the hero is or if there is even one.

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A chilling thriller that will keep you on your toes

    In "The Angel's Game", I was transported to Barcelona, albeit the Barcelona of the 1920s. Through Mr. Zafon's descriptive prose, Barcelona was brought to life. I got a chill reading about the Pueblo Nuevo Cemetery with its 'forest of angels and crosses' and the scenes that took place within its walls. I could hear footsteps echoing in the alleyways, smell the putrid stench of decay, feel the neglect of buildings abandoned long ago, and see 'the whole of Barcelona stretched out .' (pg 50) before me. Mr. Zafon has also created several memorable characters: David Martin, the tortured narrator; Andreas Corelli, angel or demon; Isabella, a kind and generous soul; etc.... These characters stayed with me long after I finished reading. They seemed to inhabit my dreams.

    Mr. Zafon's novel centers around a young writer who unwittingly makes a pact with the devil. Yes, a Faustian bargain; however, there is more to the novel, namely, there is an underlying mystery that will have you guessing/thinking throughout the novel. The story moves quickly. I found myself repeatedly saying I have time for just one more chapter. I read the book in three days - because life interrupted and I needed sleep. It is a book that you will not want to put down.

    People have commented that this book is one in a series and a prequel to "The Shadow of the Wind". I have yet to read that book and did not find myself at a disadvantage. I believe that this book stands on its own quite well and highly recommend to those that have read previous works of Zafon or those who like mystery/thrillers.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2010

    Amazing and beautiful

    I must start by letting everyone know that I dont write reviews. I had to make an exception because this novel took my breath away. Not only is it beautifully written but the plot is thrilling and unexpected. The characters are wonderfully developed, they are human and very real. I sat down to read this and could not put it down... I wanted to find every excuse throughout the 5 days it took me to read all 500 pages, to steal away and read on. I almost wish it hadn't ended and I could read on forever. I simply loved every moment of it.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

    I THINK THE BEATLES SONG IS AN APPROPRIATE TITLE FOR THIS REVIEW. I JUST READ TERRANCE RAFFERTY'S REVIEW IN THE NEW YORK TIMES,AND IT'S A SHAME HE DIDN'T FIND THIS AS MAGICAL AS "SHADOW OF THE WIND".
    I AM 54 YEARS OLD AND I MUST SAY, THAT LIFE HAS NOT BEEN A VERY MAGICAL EXPERIENCE. THE MUNDANE BUSINESS OF DAY TO DAY OVERPOWERS THE FEW MOMENTS OF JOY,AND LIKE THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK, WE MIGHT ALL CONSIDER A PACT WITH A "DEVIL" TO ACHIEVE THAT WHICH WE LONG FOR.I HATED TO PUT THIS BOOK DOWN BETWNNE READINGS. IT IS HARD FOR ME,A VORACIOUS READER, TO FIND REALLY INTERESTING BOOKS ON ALL LEVELS, BUT THIS ONE WAS,FOR ME. ALL READING IS SUBJECTIVE,AND I NEVER BASE MY PURCHASES ON CRITICS LIKE MR.RAFFERTY. I WISH THE AUTHOR HAD TRANSLATED THIS BOOK HIMSELF,OR I WISH I READ SPANISH,BECAUSE THEN I THINK IT WOULD HAVE MEANT A LOT MORE.
    MACBETH SAYS IT BEST WHEN,AFTER HIS WIFE'S DEATH AND HIS PREPARATION FOR HIS FINAL BATTLE, THAT LIFE IS "FULL OF SOUND AND FURY,SIGNYFYING NOTHING". THIS BOOK BRINGS ME ALONG WITH THE PLOT AND REMINDS ME OF THE FEW JOYFUL MOMENTS IN MY LIFE WHERE INTELLECT, EMOTION, TALENT AND PASSION ALL COMBINED MAGICALLY TO PUSH MY SOUL ABOVE THE MEDIOCRE LEVELS OF EVERYDAY LIFE, AND ACHIEVE THAT SOMETHING I LONG FOR.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Incomplete Ending

    I loved Shadow of the Wind. While I enjoyed The Angel's Game, I did not like the ending. It just felt wrong and unfinished. It left me incomplete. I found the characters in both books interesting. I just feel that Shadow of the Wind had more to offer the reader. Better characters, and story.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    OOPS! I accidentally wrote this review on Zafon's other book!!!

    Loved this one too! As I accidentally said, Love loss, buried secrets, lack of trust, connection, books....What more can you ask for? I love Zafon's writing style and his creativity to keep the reader hooked to each page! His writing appeals to both sexes, which is quite a trick to pull off! Another book that captured my heart recently is EXPLOSION IN PARIS, by Pirrung,only it appeals more to women. Loved it so much that I'm promoting it as best I can! It deserves to be read and enjoyed! The reviews tell the story!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    I Kept waiting

    I waited and waited for the story to "come together". It never did. There were many events that happened and were then forgotten. The "love" of his life dies and no emotion.......I won't read another of this author's works.

    4 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2009

    Couldn't put it down

    I loved this book. It was thrilling, I couldn't put it down. I also loved "Shadow of the Wind." I can't wait to read more of his books. His books are definately intended for readers who want suspense and mystery.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    As soon as I fininished The Angel's Game I reread The Shadow of the Wind. Please translate more books as soon as possible!!! Ruis Zafon is the writer for anyone who loves books and believes in their soul. Just say "No" to kindle.

    Please translate more books by Ruis Zafon. This book is the perfect book for anyone who love books, who loves to read, and sees books as a mirror into the soul of humanity.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic story

    I loved Shadow of the Wind and am just as enthralled with The Angels Game. I am listening to it on CD (which I sort of hate to do with such excellent writing but that's just what worked out for me) I do not speak much Spanish so I would never come up with the pronunciation that the narrator has. It really makes you feel like you are in Spain listening to an authentic Spanish story. I highly recommend this. The names of people and places spoken by the narrator with his accent are just beautiful to listen to. I may go back and read it later so I can take it slow and savor some of the passages and hopefully read it with the same beautiful pronunciation in my head. I hope he will write many more books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Angel's Game

    A strange, foreboding and complex tale of kidnapping, duplicity, crooked police, murder and intrigue with an ample shot of devils and a gothic universe that encompasses eternal life, witchcraft, a cemetery of forgotten books and spiritual benefactors. It is about a troubled writer, David Martin and his strange struggle with his art and his destiny in Barcelona 1917 -1930. He is a common man of no established family who has only one wealthy friend, Pedro Vidal who assists him endlessly out of guilt. Christina, his one true love throughout the book, is Pedro's chauffeur's daughter, who is good for considerable heartache. David a workaholic experiences numerous strange life-changing occurrences.

    He begins his writing career as a journalist, graduates to anonymous but successful crime pulp fiction and then writes his first and last novel as well as ghost writing one for his friend Pedro Vidal, whose ability is failing, unbeknownst to him. David is wrenched back from death's brink to embark on writing a book that will change the world for a mysterious wealthy publisher from France. He acquires a strange tower house that is haunted by an unusual history, which entangles him entirely. David is blessed with a young writing assistant, Isabella who struggles to keep him sane.

    The cemetery of forgotten books is probably the most intriguing concept of the book. The location of which is apparently only known to avid bookman like Senor Sempere of the renowned Sempere and Sons Bookshop. He is David's oldest friend and supporter who ultimately divulges its secret to him. The pace is baroque, deliberate and intricate until the last sixty pages when it flies with action, murders, escapes and suspense.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Up to Par

    I was disappointed in this book. I had been looking forward to it for a long time because I loved his first book but this one wasn't even in the same league with his first book. Zafon's writing style is the only thing that keeps you turning the pages. The characters are interesting but do not live up to their potential. The characters seem to move through the pages as confused as the reader does trying to figure out WHAT"S THE STORY ABOUT ANYWAY?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Another great from a great writer!

    I absolutely LOVED "The Shadow of the Wind" and I couldn't wait for another book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon to come out. While this isn't as good at "The Shadow of the Wind" it is still a great read. I can't help but excape into the places that he writes about and I truly feel like I'm watching a movie, rather than reading a book. The author is so descriptive, you to will get lost in this book. A mystery, a romance, and an angel? You've got to read this to find out the secrets hidden throughout.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Slightly Disappointed

    First let me state that The Shadow of the Wind was, by far, one of the best books I have ever read. For me, The Angel's Game did not quite live up to my expectations after having enjoyed TSOTW so much. I was definitely drawn into David's world and this author absolutely makes me feel like I am living vicariously through his protagonist. The Angel's Game started strong and I was immediately immersed in the dark atmosphere of the book. A little after midway through the story this book started to lose some of its hold on me. I think it may have been the way the story was branching off in so many directions. I do understand the purpose of having David encounter all these other characters, but I sometimes felt like I was reading three separate stories that were being forced to mesh into one book. I didn't feel David and Cristina's love story as emotionally as the love story in TSOTW because I never got that sense of their connection. By the end of The Angel's Game I felt a little let down by what seemed to be a quick wrap up to a complicated story that could have been concluded about 200 pages earlier if I hadn't had so much peripheral story to deal with. That being said, I would still recommend this book, and I still look forward to this author's next work. I loved that the Cemetery of Forgotten Books also played a part in The Angel's Game. I loved the inclusion of the Sempere family and learning more of their history. I absolutely love Carlos Ruiz Zafon's writing style and his ability to make me feel as if I am part of the story, experiencing what his characters are experiencing as if I am walking through the streets of Barcelona with them. Do I think this book was as wonderful as The Shadow of the Wind? No, I don't. But it is still a good book and well worth your time to read and become a part of these characters' world for a short time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Didn't measure up

    As a huge fan of Shadow of the Wind, I eagerly awaited Zafon's next novel. Although I enjoyed Angel's Game, I felt it fell short of his first. I found myself a bit confused about Sempere as he in included in the plot of this as well, until a little more than halfway through where I figured it out. The writing is just as beautiful as Shadow's, but the plot is a lot darker. Not everyone gets a happy ending. I did enjoy the tie-ins that allowed the characters to continue to exist in the same beautifully written world, but overall I felt the plot wasn't as finely crafted as from his first work. It started out well enough, but I felt it dragged and left me not as satisfied as I had hoped. Still worth a read, but didn't quite measure up to the excellence of Zafon's first venture.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    As Good as it Gets

    "The Shadow of the Wind" is without doubt one of the finest literary achievements in recent history. Sublime in Spanish, it is possibly even surpassed by the remarkable translation of Lucia Graves, and "The Angel's Game", in Spanish, is as rich, beautifully written, original and thought-provoking as its predecessor. We look forward to the English-language version, with its incomparable use of language.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2009

    Psst! Want a Great Summer Read that's Smart and Fun? Here it is!

    Vividly told with drama, intrigue, laughs, love and the pure joy and magic of books and their power to transform us, The Angels Game is the prequel to the internationally best-selling The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The author dazzles us but never overwhelms as he weaves his tale set in Barcelona of the 1920s. An orphaned boy grows to manhood in a Gothic world of wonders and secrets. He is befriended by a rich, failed writer, and a local secondhand bookshop owner and is seduced into the world of words. We follow David Martin as he becomes a writer himself and is drawn into a literary mystery involving a powerful stranger Andreas Corelli, who commissions a book to be written which brought only bad luck and ruin to the writer previously hired for the task. Clues are unearthed in the old house where David now lives involving closed off rooms and dreams and visions of unsettling events. The characters are well drawn and the tale is enlivened with a dash of humor and wit. There are two loves in Davids life and you will fall in love with these women too.
    Explore the Barcelona of the 1920s in this exciting and enchanting tale. It is perfect for summer reading for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a great book. It has already become one of my new favorites.

    Curt Jarrell
    Glen Burnie, MD

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2010

    Beautifully written...story line falls apart

    I eagerly awaited reading this book after being enchanted by "shadow of the wind".
    The initial chapters re-captured the lush, sensual writing style I enjoyed in his previous novel...but then the plot became disjointed and at times silly.
    Would still recommend as this author is pure joy to read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Love the way he writes...

    I was a bit disappointed that the story was about the same family. Shadow of the Wind was just awesome and I did expect his follow up to be a completely different story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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